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St. John's vs Notre Dame: 5 Questions with ND Basketball

Before the match with the St. John's Red Storm - another pregame 5 Questions post, this time with Mike from the Black and Green Irish Men's Basketball Report - thanks, Mike, for the info.

This one in particular showed that there is frustration over Notre Dame's basketball team - because they just avoid the "D". I answered some questions of his here; and check out the pregame post here and at Johnny Jungle in an extended version.

1- It's been a bumpy ride for the Fighting Irish this year. What's gone right and what's gone wrong with Mike Brey's team?

They play great offense but lack defensive focus. This has been a common complaint since Mike Brey set foot on campus but this is the most ridiculous disparity I've seen. I thought that replacing Kyle McAlarney with the more athletic Ben Hansbrough this season would fix some of the issues that plagued us a year ago. Instead, Irish defenders commonly get beaten off the ball, are slow to close out on shooters, and get pushed around a bit on the glass.

2- So, give us the latest on Luke Harangody. If he can't go, who starts in his place? Do some of the younger forwards get some time – Jack Cooley, Carleton Scott, Mike Broghammer? Who takes the bulk of the shots if Luke's out?

He's out for Sunday's game, which is obviously a big loss for us. I would guess that Jonathan Peoples (one of the worst players to ever pull on a Notre Dame jersey) will start at small forward, moving Tim Abromaitis to the 4 and Ty Nash to the low post. Look for Carleton Scott to get a bit of an increase in minutes as a reserve forward. Mike Broghammer has been the first freshman big off the bench in mopup time, but he's been hurt lately. I doubt either he or Cooley gets more than a couple minutes, if anything.

3- Give me a rundown on the Notre Dame roster - forwards, wings/ guards, point guards. The Irish are terribly thin, huh?! Have any of the younger guys (the forwards mentioned above and Joey Brooks) shown breakout potential?

Coach Brey doesn't like to play guys he doesn't trust. For whatever reason, that circle of trust has been especially small this season. Tory Jackson and Hansbrough will most likely play all 40 minutes in the backcourt. Brooks could get 6-8 minutes at shooting guard or small forward. Nash will get the fewest minutes of the starters, but most likely even he will earn 30-35. Expect a seven-man rotation.

None of the younger guys have gotten enough playing time to really display a lot of talent. Brooks might be the best defender on the team, but he won't see any minutes until he convinces the coaching staff that he can score. Jack Cooley has the most potential of our three freshman forwards, but Broghammer is the most game-ready so far.

Unfortunately, he has been hurt lately.

4- Speaking of the last question, what does the future look like for the Irish in terms of players, how the team will play, and Mike Brey's future there? I hear occasional "Mike Brey could be in trouble next year", but I'm not sure if that's idle talk or real talk. And how will Scott Martin fit in? (I liked his skills at Purdue when he was there.)

Brey should be on the hot seat this season. There is no reason that one of the best players in school and conference history (Harangody) should finish his career with two straight NIT appearances. The Irish don't have a lot of top-notch talent, but they should be a lot better than they are. Put a taskmaster who preaches good defense on these guys and they would be a reasonably dangerous NCAA squad.

As for Martin, we missed a lot by not having him this year. Tim Abromaitis has been a breakout star this year, but Martin could have been an even better option at small forward. We will be a great addition to the team next season, but it's a shame he didn't get a chance to play alongside Harangody.

5- Ok, no offense, but how does the team win games without playing any defense? It's getting worse - teams shoot decently against the Irish, ND doesn't force any turnovers at all... I mean, I would think Ben Hansbrough would muscle up on people a little better... or something.

It doesn't. The coaching staff doesn't place a necessary emphasis on defense in practice. The end result? Great, efficient offenses even with a bunch of unathletic players and some really bad D.

== See my answers to his questions at Black and Green Irish Report.==